April 21, 2011

Upper Arana Gulch is blooming!

I guess I've never visited Upper Arana Gulch at this time of year. I've been there in May and June to hear Swainson's Thrushes and catch glimpses of Wilson's Warblers. I've been there in fall to enjoy fruiting coffeberry, creek dogwood and hazelnut and in winter when the willows and creek dogwoods are bare. I was completely unprepared for the number of plants that were blooming here last Sunday. Masses of pale blue forget-me-nots bordered the road, beautiful in spite of the the fact that they're non-native invasives. A variety of native flowering plants, mosses, and ferns made this short walk very interesting.

Posted on April 21, 2011 04:19 AM by barbarab barbarab | 20 observations | 1 comment | Leave a comment

April 16, 2011

Spring at Moore Creek Preserve

I joined a Santa Cruz Bird Club field trip to Moore Creek Preserve yesterday. Although it was a birding trip, spring wildflowers, native grasses, insects and a coyote commanded a fair amount of our attention. It was nice to see so much purple needle grass there. I guess I had only hiked here in the dry season when all the grasses are brown. I had noticed a bit of Nassella pulchra along the side of the trail on previous visits, but in spring the purple seed heads and awns make swathes of this grass stand out. There is also native California oat grass and meadow barley here. There were other interesting grasses, rushes, and sedge here as well, so it would me a good place to return to with a grass book and a hand lens. I had neither, but fortunately Steve Gerow, the field trip leader, is as knowledgeable about plants as he is about birds.

Cicadas made their presence known with their clicking calls. I just read that Platypedia, the genus of cicadas I encounter locally, makes its noise by rattling its wings together. Other cicadas produce a very different sound with special abdominal organs called tymbals. Cicadas in the genus Platypedia lack tymbals,

Grasshopper Sparrows were singing their strange insect-like song, especially from the shrubs along the edge of the ravines. They have another song Steve Gerow described as tinkling. Savannah Sparrows, Western Bluebirds, Kestrels, Red-tailed Hawks, and Western Meadowlarks were among the other birds we saw in the grassland.

A pair of Common Ravens flew back and forth along the ravine each carrying a large russet colored mass of something. They kept this up for some time. I will have to see if I can find any description of this kind of behavior. I am curious to learn if this is typical of Raven courtship.

Posted on April 16, 2011 08:46 PM by barbarab barbarab | 25 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 13, 2011

backyard birds

Both White-crowned and Golden-crowned Sparrows are still hanging around. House Finches, both the usual rosy colored males plus a couple of the yellow variety, are here everyday. It's good to see Mourning Doves are hanging around instead of the Eurasian Collared Doves that were here last year. I still hear and see them in the neighborhood, but they don't seem quite as numerous as last year. I heard a Bewick's Wren singing in the area for several days, but I haven't heard them for the past week. Other regulars include Lesser Goldfinch and Western Scrub Jay.

Posted on April 13, 2011 05:40 PM by barbarab barbarab | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 11, 2011

Double Peregrine Day

Spent the day birding along the Stevens Creek from McClellan Ranch down to Blackberry Farm golf course and the Stocklmeir orchard. The day began with a clear view of a Peregrine Falcon at the top of the redwood tree by the McClellan entrance. This is only the second time I've seen a Peregrine in this area. At the end of the day I came home to Santa Cruz and took my dog Diego for along deserved walk. Two blocks from my house I saw a Peregrine perched at the top of a cypress plucking a Mourning Dove. I see Peregrines more frequently in Santa Cruz than I do in Cupertino, but this was the first time I've heard one vocalize. It appeared the Peregrine had it feathers ruffled a bit when a crow moved in to close to its dove dinner.

Posted on April 11, 2011 05:11 AM by barbarab barbarab | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 10, 2011

Stevens Creek Cruisers Stike Again

I was out with five other birders today as part of the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society's Spring Birdathon. While some birdathon teams travel from one birding hotspot to another in an effort to see as many species as possible within a 4-24 hour period, we just covered the area along Stevens Creek from McClellan Rd. to Stevens Creek Blvd. Debi Jamison organizes this team not just to raise money, but to conduct a springtime survey of birds in and around the City of Cupertino-owned land along Stevens Creek. We cover McClellan Ranch Park, Blackberry Farm Picnic Area, Blackberry Farm Golf Course, and the Stocklmeir Property.

This year we identified 51 species between 8:00 am and 2:30 pm. The most unexpected find was a Peregrine Falcon perched at the top of the redwood tree by the McClellan Ranch entrance. Not too long after the Peregrine flew off, a Merlin perched in the same spot. We also found a Cooper's Hawk and a Red-shouldered Hawk on a nest, plus a mating pair of Red-tailed Hawks. I'll add the full list at a later time.

Posted on April 10, 2011 10:35 PM by barbarab barbarab | 1 comment | Leave a comment

First gopher snake sighting

Austin Pleban found a young gopher snake yesterday afternoon. I'm guessing this small one hatched last autumn. I generally notice young gopher snakes in the fall, but last year I saw an unusually large number of young snakes. I have a hunch this had to due with the lower than average temperatures during the summer of 2010.

I'll post notes on the distinctive markings of this snake later. If anyone sees or photographs a McClellan Ranch gopher snake later, they can compare its marking with this snake's to see if they're the same.

Posted on April 10, 2011 04:26 AM by barbarab barbarab | 1 observation | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 06, 2011

first cicadas

This afternoon I heard the first cicadas of the season. I often have a hard time seeing the insect making the noise I'm hearing. Today was like that. I couldn't see any, yet I'm pretty sure it was the small black cicada.

Posted on April 06, 2011 06:38 AM by barbarab barbarab | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 04, 2011

Bonny Doon Ecological Reserve

I hadn't been to this site since the 2008 Martin Fire. Bush poppies have now become much more abundant in the burned area. Silver Bush Lupine and Ceanothus papillosus were blooming. Saw a couple of very interesting mosses.

We heard Pileated Woodpeckers frequently as we walked through this area, but could never get a good look at one, just a quick glance as one flew out of sight. Saw many Hairy Woodpeckers, as well as an Acorn Woodpecker and a Northern Flicker. Other bird I saw or heard include American Robin, Dark-eyed Junco,Wrentit, Orange-crowned Warbler, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, and Red-breasted Nuthatch. Heard one intriguing song I couldn't identify.

Lots of Bombyllids of varying sizes and colors were out today. Lester got photographs of one. Failed to get good looks at the few butterflies and bees we saw. I collected at least two species of ants and I'm eager to put them under a microscope to key them out.

Posted on April 04, 2011 05:04 AM by barbarab barbarab | 9 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 02, 2011

Schwan Lake

Out with the Santa Cruz Bird Club this morning. Highlights of the trip included Lincoln's Sparrow, Black-throated Gray Warbler, Orange-crowned Warbler, both Myrtle and Audubon's subspecies of Yellow-rumped Warbler, Townsend's Warbler, Hutton's Vireo and Pygmy Nuthatch. Many small reddish-brown wasps with long antennae. I left early to head off to work.

Posted on April 02, 2011 06:24 AM by barbarab barbarab | 1 observation | 1 comment | Leave a comment

March 31, 2011

House Wren returns

Saw a House wren checking out a nest box along the nature trail just past the pump house. Last year was the first year I'd seen this species nest in the park, and we got two nesting pairs that moved into adjacent nest boxes.

Posted on March 31, 2011 07:37 AM by barbarab barbarab | 0 comments | Leave a comment